You might remember in December I introduced the idea of having a so-called Artist in Residence. I meet so many talented people in my travels that I thought it would be nice to give them a voice (not that they don't already have one of their own!) This month I'm happy to have Courtney Wotherspoon share this space. Courtney and I first met when I profiled Smock Cafe last spring. It was evident from that first meeting that she was a creative force to be reckoned with. From illustration to hand lettering to interiors to retail products she can literally do it all.
You're involved in several ventures: illustration, art, lettering, interiors. How would you describe the work you do?
I often just sum it up as "the business of making things look good". So often people ask me “what do you do”, and expect a one or two word title. Because I do so much across a broad spectrum, I find it difficult to label myself as strictly “illustrator” or “designer”, as the lines are often hazy; I'll switch hats (or layer many at a time) throughout the course of a work week. Regardless of what I'm doing, the finished project tends to represent me and my voice, as the disciplines I work in, thankfully, complement each other well. I may be delusional, but I like to think that my work can find a home in any realm, be it a living room, a magazine page, an envelope or a store front.
Do you have a preference for one discipline over another?
My first love is illustration and hand-lettering, so I always get excited to come back to that and work on a good old fashioned editorial piece. Recently though, I'm finding more and more work I do finds itself in the physical '3-dimensional' world; through interiors, commercial applications and retail product. I grew up with an interior designer mother, so I think that is finally catching up to me. I do, however, think that I approach a space differently than a 'professionally trained' decorator, as I'm coming at it from an artist's perspective.
An ideal project is one that lets me explore all angles, from branding, art and design to execution and installation. This is why I so enjoy projects like l'ouvrier, because I was able to work with Justine and Angus from concept and brand development to menu design to art installation-artwork that, I hope, drives the concept of the restaurant home. The 'detritus baggies' installation, for example, is composed of construction and renovation materials, speaking to the 'labourer' that the restaurant aims to feed. We've elevated these humble materials by displaying them in a thoughtful way, giving them a life beyond their function and a sense of importance. Appreciating the raw materials, if you will. This is what Angus presents through his menu as well, so there's a consistent dialogue happening between the front and the back of the house.
Working with my hands is a must, so regardless of what project I'm working on, I try to get my hands dirty whenever I can. In my world, paint under the fingernails is the sign of a day well spent.
What has been your most fulfilling project to date?
Last year I worked with Sara Wood to develop Smock Cafe and Wonder Workshop (here in Toronto), and it was a project that brought - and continues to bring - a lot of joy. Because my involvement in the project began at conception and continued all the way through to opening, I was able to touch on so many elements that I love and really foster that creative spirit. Everything from brand identity and development, to illustration (a great series of collage pieces on their website), 'craft curation' in the workshop's 'apothecary' to installations and small projects around the physical space (every table in the cafe tells a different story through collage). From the beginning we wanted to present a kids' space full of wonder and whimsy, so it really just felt like we were playing and having fun creating throughout the process. It was a great collaboration.
Across all your work there is a consistency of aesthetic. How would you describe your style?
Handmade, textured, whimsical, organic, layered, reigned-in chaos, cheeky, hard and soft. I try not to take myself too seriously and have fun switching things up, playing and keeping people guessing. I think that as long as it's coming from a place of honesty and my love of art and craft, it will continue to be aesthetically 'mine'. Hopefully those who come across it get a sense of that as well.
Going forward where do you see your work taking you?
I've always envisioned my work on fabrics and walls, so a textile collection is next, followed closely by a wallpaper experiment.
I'd like to continue seeing my illustration work presented in different media than the expected page or billboard, so bringing it further into the home and retail environments seems like the next logical step, and a good way to continue bridging that gap between art and environment. All the while continuing to hone my skills through conceptual illustration, whenever the opportunity presents itself. It's like a muscle that needs continued training and exercise - just got to keep moving, for fear of atrophy.
A Lindsay Adelman blown-glass chandelier *gush*
To see more of l'ouvrier the restaurant that Courtney helped create check back in next Monday when I will profile the space.Image credits: Image of Courtney & Images of l'ouvrier baggies and sticks- Kristin Sjaarda All other images courtesy of Courtney Wotherspoon.